Setting The Record Straight

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October 31, 2011

Inaccurate Statement Regarding WWE Content and Programming:

“Maybe in time Connecticut will consider the pornography and mock violence of the wrestling business…”
Chris Powell, Managing Editor, The Register Citizen and Journal Inquirer, January 28, 2012

View entire column by clicking here.

WWE Letter in Response to False Statement:

Dear Mr. Powell:

We are writing regarding your column that appeared in the Journal Inquirer and The Register Citizen on January 28, 2012, where you state, “maybe in time Connecticut will consider the pornography and mock violence of the wrestling business.…”

Although this was an opinion piece, your position as managing editor of the Journal Inquirer would ethically require you to report the facts accurately and not distort the truth.  For future editorials and news stories that may pertain to WWE, we wanted to reiterate the facts to you so you clearly understand our programming content and the type of entertainment we provide to our more than 300,000 fans in the State of Connecticut.

All WWE television programming features only TV-PG content as rated not by us, but by the network TV distributors and their standards and practices departments.  WWE weekly programming has always appeared on basic cable or broadcast television.  As any casual television viewer knows, your description of our programming, based on the Federal Communications Commission rules alone, would not be permitted on free television or basic cable.  To exemplify WWE’s TV-PG brand, children’s favorite “The Muppets” recently made special guest star appearances on “Monday Night Raw,” which airs on USA Network, and on our annual holiday special, “Tribute to the Troops,” which aired on NBC.

Sincerely,

Robert Zimmerman
Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications, WWE

Misrepresentation:
On NPR’s “On the Media” show on Sunday, October 16, a segment regarding WWE had several inaccuracies.  WWE was neither contacted nor afforded the opportunity to verify the accuracy of any claims presented as “facts,” nor invited to participate in the segment.  This is surprising for a show that claims to “maintain civility and fairness,” when “tackling sticky issues with a frankness and transparency.” -- Oct. 31, 2011 (READ THE FULL TRANSCRIPT)

Facts:
WWE has more than 625 full-time employees and 120 performers who are independent contractors, the same as actors or actresses on television dramas, soaps or comedies.  They do not have corporate responsibilities or duties. WWE’s main roster talent work and travel four and a half days a week with annual compensation ranging from $250,000 to millions. WWE pays for all in-ring related injuries and any associated rehabilitation. Additionally, WWE leads the entertainment industry with its Talent Wellness Program, which is administered independently by renowned medical professionals and includes cardiovascular testing, ImPACT™, testing for brain function, substance abuse and drug testing, annual physicals, and health care referrals. The performers are contractually responsible for securing their own insurance to cover everyday health maintenance and ailments.

Several talent are incorporated, have agents or professional managers who handle contract negotiations with WWE. Additionally, many also have accountants or financial advisors to oversee their finances and investments, just like other entertainers and everyday people. Under WWE’s Talent Life Skills program, WWE offers mandatory workshops to its contracted performers to assist them in these matters.

WWE has evolved over the years to address talent needs and squarely places our talents’ health and well-being as our top priority. Without our talent, WWE would simply not exist.

Accusation:
"…its reputation as a business that turned a blind eye to steroid use and other activities by its wrestlers that some critics say have contributed to the deaths of a high number of them."
Editorial -- Connecticut Hearst Newspapers -- Jan. 4, 2010

Truth:

  • In virtually all instances, WWE is being blamed for the deaths of performers who were no longer affiliated with WWE in any way at the time of their deaths.
  • Since the formation of the company in 1982, five wrestlers have passed away while under contract with WWE. According to coroner reports, one individual died by accident, one by suicide and three by natural causes, specifically arteriosclerotic heart disease. 
  • The Talent Wellness Program, fully funded by WWE, calls for regular cardiovascular testing and monitoring, ImPACT™ testing for brain function, annual physicals, medical referrals and blood screening of WWE Talent, as well as random drug testing.
  • WWE's Talent Wellness Policy strictly prohibits the use of anabolic steroids and performance enhancing drugs, masking agents, the abuse of prescription medications, and the use, possession and/or distribution of illegal drugs.
  • WWE offers current and former talent who may have substance abuse problems complete drug rehabilitation at no cost to them. WWE is the only entertainment company that provides this type of assistance and ongoing support to its former performers.


Accusation:
"In 2009, the year that WWE received all $9.8 million in film tax credits, the company laid off about 10 percent of its global workforce, or about 60 workers."
Eric Gershon -- Hartford Courant -- Oct. 1, 2010

Truth:

  • The company participates in the tax credit program which is designed to grow the film and television industry in Connecticut.
  • WWE, like every other public company has a duty to its shareholders to take advantage of approved tax credits, just like other movie and television producers based in CT such as ESPN/ABC and GE/NBC. 
  • The tax credits that have been properly taken by WWE have helped the company add approximately 60 employees, returning WWE to workforce levels existing prior to the workforce reduction in January 2009.  
  • WWE pays out $60 million in annual salaries for employees based in Connecticut.   
  • In 2011, WWE plans to add additional headcount for a WWE cable network, which when up and running is projected to add another 140 jobs in CT.
  • Millions of dollars are paid to the state of Connecticut in a variety of taxes by WWE, our employees (personal income tax, real estate taxes, sales taxes, etc.) and the company also employs local vendors and service providers that also end up paying taxes to the state.


Accusation:
"…the company had, in fact, retained lobbyists to represent the company's interests regarding federal regulation of steroids, restrictions on adult-oriented programming and a host of other issues."

Daniela Altimari -- The Hartford Courant's Capitol Watch Blog -- Oct. 8, 2010

"…lobbyists helped McMahon ‘duck taxes.'"
Matthew Kauffman -- The Hartford Courant -- Oct. 15, 2010

Truth:

  • WWE has never spent one penny lobbying anybody regarding the federal regulation of steroids.  WWE did incur legal fees associated with responding to requests for information from Congressional committees on its drug testing policies and in connection with WWE representatives appearing before Congressional staffers to testify.
  • Since WWE's inception in 1982, WWE has spent a nominal amount of money on government relations for an entertainment company of WWE's size. According to Open Secrets.org, the television, movie and music industry has spent $755,069,734.00 on lobbying since 1998.  WWE's total spend amounts to less than three-tenths of one percent of that amount during its entire 28 years in existence.  
  • The overwhelming majority of the company's government relations expenditures focused on the company's Smackdown Your Vote! Initiative and Armed Services involvement with the company. 
  • WWE pays gross admissions taxes on ticket sales similar to concerts or other live entertainment events in states that WWE is not regulated.

Accusation:
"… the fact that the merchandise sold by the WWE is manufactured in China."
Ted Mann -- The New London Day -- Oct. 5, 2010

Truth:

  • WWE's master toy licensee is Mattel; who manufactures all of WWE's toys.
  • Approximately 90 to 95 percent of all toys purchased in the U.S. are manufactured abroad. 
  • WWE does not manufacture any merchandise. Its licensing partners do. 
  • WWE is a global entertainment company with business partners who are both US and international based. Those partners have employees all over the world.
  • Contrary to the assertion that our licensing program shifts jobs overseas, in reality, it creates jobs here in Connecticut for employees involved in product licensing, design approval, royalty accounting and the like.

Accusation:
"…the company…has been criticized for violent and sexually suggestive programming."

Peter Wallsten -- The Wall Street Journal -- July 2, 2010

Truth:

  • All of WWE's programming has been TV-PG since June 2008.  
  • Friday Night SmackDown, which made its network debut in 1999 has always been rated TV-PG.
  • 87 percent of WWE fans say WWE content is appropriate for families.
  • Of the 14 million weekly viewers in the United States that watch WWE programming, six million are women.

Accusation:
"Putting profits before people."

Richard Blumenthal Ads -- 2010

Truth:

  • World Wrestling Entertainment first opened its office in 1983 with 13 employees. Today it employees approximately 600 people and pays out $60 million in salaries for those based in Connecticut alone.
  • WWE provides a comprehensive benefits package to all full-time employees including medical, dental, vision, 401(k) and employee stock purchase plans.
  • 110 employees have been with WWE for more than 10 years.
  • WWE has 140 Superstars and Divas currently under contract as independent contractors.
  • The average active roster WWE Talent earns more than $550,000 annually, with WWE covering 100 percent of all costs associated with any in-ring related injuries and rehabilitation.
  • In 2011, WWE plans to hire between 100-140 employees in anticipation of the launch of the WWE cable network.
  • WWE has a longstanding commitment to give back to communities through literacy programs, support of the military and their families, and a more than 25 year relationship with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Accusation:
"…the state Democratic Party has criticized…other business practices, particularly its classifying performers as independent contractors who do not receive health benefits from WWE."

- Ed Stannard -- New Haven Register -- Sept. 5, 2010

Truth:

  • WWE covers 100 percent of all costs associated with any in-ring related injuries and rehabilitation.
  • The Talent Wellness Program, fully funded by WWE, calls for regular cardiovascular testing and monitoring, ImPACT™ testing for brain function, annual physicals, medical referrals and blood screening of WWE Talent, as well as substance abuse and random drug testing.
  • WWE offers current and former talent who may have substance abuse problems complete drug rehabilitation at no cost to them. WWE is the only entertainment company that provides this type of assistance and ongoing support to its former performers.
  • WWE invests nearly $3.5 million annually in the talents' health and wellness programs.


Accusation:
"The company also has been accused of looking the other way as wrestlers, feeling pressured to maintain the pumped-up bodies showcased in the W.W.E., turned to steroids."

-- Ray Hernandez & Joshua Brustein -- The New York Times -- July 15, 2010

Truth:

  • WWE's Talent Wellness Policy strictly prohibits the use of steroids, the abuse of prescription medications, performance enhancing drugs and the use, possession and/or distribution of illegal drugs.
  • WWE's entire substance abuse and drug testing policy is independently administered by third party leading medical experts.
  • The Talent Wellness Program is designed to result in all WWE Talent being tested at a minimum four times a year, but may result in more frequent testing due to the random selection process.


Accusation:
"Lack of athletic-board scrutiny also ensured that the WWE's wrestlers would not be subject to drug tests."

-- Andy Barr -- Politico -- Aug. 10, 2010

Truth:

  • WWE is still regulated in 21 states and the District of Columbia, where rules and regulations can differ. The company's Talent Wellness Program is far stricter than any medical or drug testing required by the states. 
  • Much like Ringling Brothers Circus and Harlem Globetrotters, WWE is sheer entertainment and therefore should not be under the purview of the antiquated rules and regulations of State Athletic Commissions.  
  • WWE pays gross admissions taxes on ticket sales similar to concerts or other live entertainment events in states that we are not regulated.

Accusation:
"The allegations against WWE seem to be criminal in nature…because allegations about independent contractors are investigated by the Department of Labor and the Department of Revenue Services..."

Richard Blumenthal -- Oct. 4, 2010

Truth:

  • WWE has always complied with the law, and constantly reviews its internal practices and procedures to comply with ever-changing employee laws. 
  • For the entirety of WWE's existence, WWE talent have been classified as independent contractors and not employees.
  • There is not now, nor has there ever been, any criminal investigation into WWE's treatment of its Superstars as independent contractors.  
  • WWE's treatment and reporting of its talent as independent contractors has never been challenged or questioned by any federal or state regulatory body during the entirety of WWE's existence.
  • Up until this election, WWE has not been investigated in the past for independent contractor classification.

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